Buffalo, Luangwa River

May 2017 Newsletter, Horseback Safaris


LBJ in breeding plumage

"Unfortunately in the East we will have nuisance showers”, BBC Radio weather forecast. Water is key to life and yet so often forecasters apologise when rain is forecast. As I write this, we’ve had just a few millimetres of rain in the last two months, and this afternoon’s promised “heavy showers” didn’t materialise. Not great for riding, since the ground is like rock. I also grow my own hay for Winter feed: the rainfall pattern was similar last year, with storms arriving in June when we were looking to cut and bale. Tedding (turning the hay to dry it out) too often spoils the crop and moulds can set in.

Spare a thought for African famers, who in parts of the continent have had several years of drought in a row. Long-term drought changes the landscape and the lives of people and animals. Nevertheless, nature left to its own devices has a way of bouncing back, particularly when game can migrate long distances to alternative food and water.

Rhinos in the rain

Whilst there can never be certainly in the weather, understanding climatic patterns is essential when planning a safari. For the first-timer it is invariably best to travel when conditions are OK for both good game viewing and comfortable living. That means grass not too long, nights not too hot, no getting stuck in mud!

Mating bull-frogs

For returning visitors, there can be appeal in something a bit different. Rains bring new life for animals such as impala which breed seasonally, dramatic light and verdant backdrops for photography, migrants boost bird counts, and there’s amazing breeding plumage for some resident birds which are firmly in the LBJ category for most of the year. Some of my most unusual experiences have been on out-of-season trips: vast flocks of falcons and ponds heaving with mating bull frogs in Southern Tanzania; termites taking flight in Botswana.

Migrant cuckoo

The Luangwa Valley in Zambia first rebranded their Sumer rains as the Green Season and then more recently the Emerald Season. It’s hard to argue with that description, with parched, barren and dusty bush transformed by luxuriant vegetation. However, game is hard to spot and indeed widely dispersed since there is water available everywhere. Walking is also very restricted, due to limited visibility: too many places for buffalo to hide in ambush!

So, lack of rain means mild inconvenience for me and I’m about to start watering the veggies in the garden two months earlier than usual. But when it comes to planning your safari with confidence, who do you trust? The various Internet offerings can provide some useful pointers, but I’d argue that you can’t beat an experienced Safari Consultant in providing the best odds in matching your interests with the vagaries of the African weather.

Finally on the meteorological theme, fingers crossed for warm and dry weather for the agricultural show season, which starts here with the South Suffolk. I’ll be on the Safari Consultants stand as usual at the Suffolk Show at the end of the month. If you are local, I hope to see you there, otherwise please do get in touch by phone or email.